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Published: 2009/06/01
by Brian Robbins

Where I Come From New Riders Of The Purple Sage

Woodstock Records
Forget the 40 years of history; forget the dues paid and the groundwork laid for what came to be known as the jamband scene; forget the family tree whose roots are tightly entwined with those of the Dead just forget all that stuff and throw on a copy of the New Riders of The Purple Sage Where I Come From. Pretend its the debut album from a new band and listen. Just listen.

You know what? Its good damn good, as a matter of fact. No need to give anyone a free ride based on their laurels; the New Riders are making some of the best music of their career. This is no oldies act, kids you want songs? You got em. You want jams? You got those, too.

The first step in the New Riders renaissance of the last few years was breathing new life into old classics letting songs like Garden Of Eden and Portland Woman off the leash in live settings and seeing where they took the band. With Where I Come From, the New Riders went into the studio with a collection of solid new songs and let the tape roll. What we hear was captured within the first couple passes at each tune with the jams blossoming on the spot. Of course, it doesnt hurt to be friends with The Bard. The Dead – God bless em and more power to em may have the major-league tour this year and big-gun merchandising but the New Riders have Robert Hunter. Eight of the 12 tracks on Where I Come From feature new Hunter lyrics with music from the New Riders David Nelson. Hunter and Nelson have been at this since the days of the Wildwood Boys (sitting in Davids parents living room with Jerry Garcia in the early ’60s trying to figure out the chord changes to old bluegrass songs) and the bond shines through. Where I Come From and Big Six are chock full of Hunter-style observations and lessons in life; the Bo Diddley snake dance of Barracuda Moon takes us to a world of outlaws and survivors; Down The Middle feels like a sweet soul cousin to the Deads Black Muddy River. And Rockin With Nona is one of those tunes that you think youve heard before: it may simply honk like a Chuck Berry classic but there are pictures there that could only come out of Robert Hunters head.

Fellow Riders and songwriters Michael Falzarano, Johnny Markowski, and Ronnie Penque ought to be proud; their contributions are woven between the Hunter/Nelson tunes and never drop the torch. Markowskis Higher promises to become a new sing-along classic in Riderworld, while Penques Olivia Rose is a sweetheart, pure and simple. Michael Falzarano wears many hats on the album: when he wasnt busy chugging things along with his killer Tele rhythm work or sharing lead vocal chores with Nelson, he was the producer for the WICF sessions, capturing the bands live sound and keeping it true to the NRPS vibe. Falzaranos Something In The Air Tonight is a showcase for Ronnie Penque with his bass doing a funky, head-bopping camel walk that just grabs ahold of the groove and wont let go.

And then theres Buddy Cage.

The single most recognizable element that makes the New Riders sound what it is may be the interaction between David Nelsons B-bender Telecaster and Buddy Cages steel guitar. On Where I Come From, Cage is in excellent form: he weaves with Nelson in classic NRPS fashion and proves his mastery of the pedal steel not only as a lead voice, but as a rhythm instrument, as well. And for those who still write off the pedal steel as being too country, let Cages solos on the title track or Barracuda Moon settle on you and see how you feel then. (Heres a paper towel thats your brain dripping onto your shoulder.)

All in all, Where I Come From is a gift from a group of veteran musicians who have nothing to prove and still have music to make. As mentioned earlier, the album would stand on its own if you knew nothing about the New Riders.

To know the grassroots vibe from all those years ago still exists, however, is truly cool. Play on, boys play on.

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